University of California mulls sawmill, CHP facility purchase

By Anna Simet | May 04, 2016

The University of California is on the verge of purchasing the Sierra Pacific Industries Loyalton, California, mill and associated property, including a 20-MW, combined-heat-and-power (CHP) biomass unit.

The mill has a history of shuttering and restarting—in 2009, Sierra Pacific Industries closed the facility amidst contractual disputes with its power purchaser. It reopened in early 2010, only to close again the following August, for reasons Sierra Pacific said included government failure to implement the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, litigation filed by environmental groups and reduced energy rates that made the facility uneconomic to run.

Now, the University of California has entered into an escrow to purchase the site and use it as a regional educational facility serving to study wood and forest product technology, biofuels, forest health, biomass energy production and CHP.

Sierra County Supervisor Paul Roen confirmed the potential purchase, but added that the transaction was still under negotiation.

Glenda Humiston, vice president of the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided the following statement to Biomass Magazine:

“UC ANR is exploring the viability of procuring land and facilities, associated with the biomass facility in Loyalton, to develop a new Research and Extension Center focused on development of high-value biobased products. As California grapples with the many challenges of forest stewardship, it is vital that we invest in research on new, and innovative, ways to utilize biomass. Recent progress on commercial bioplastics, cellulosic nanofibers, and biomass as a feedstock for chemicals and polymers offer great opportunities to both improve forest health while supporting viable new industries. UC ANR is currently initiating environmental and engineering reviews and assessments of the Loyalton plant and land; final decisions on this particular property will depend on those assessments and subsequent negotiations with the owner. Regardless of whether UC ANR procures the Loyalton facility, we are strongly committed to expanding our efforts to serve California’s forest communities through improving the health of its ecosystems and people while also supporting vibrant regional economies.”